Who wants to hear what it sounds like to combine Scottish folk with bluegrass? I do! I do! The band is called Southern Tenant Folk Union and the new record is The New Farming Scene.
Mostly we (bloggers) are writing about the known. Usually we’re writing about a band or artist that we are familiar with in some way or another. Sometimes the person has been in another band that we’re familair with or the producer is a known commodity or there are guest stars we can sink our proverbial teeth into. We rarely write blind. Today is one of those days. Somehow in my travels around the web I encountered the angelic voice of Nell Robinson and her new record Loango.
“Butch” is one of the few Nell Robinson originals on the new record and it fits in so well alongside the beautiful cover renditions that it’s as if it’s a classic itself. Nell is planning a tour this summer so sign up for her emails here so you can be alerted to her upcoming performances. The new record is for sale at Nell’s website here or through CD Baby here.
A couple weeks back Canadian based blogs Herohill, Slowcoustic, and Chicago based Song:Illinois (here) went a little overboard over Canadian singer-songwriter Cam Penner. There was some good natured ribbing and recrimination over the fact that I was first to discover this excellent Canadian singer-songwriter in their own backyard. Now I hate to say it but I’m going to do it again.
Chris Coole is a Toronto based clawhammer banjo player of some renown (in fact he may be one of the best in the world). He’s played with and for some great artists over the years (Jenny Whiteley, Jim Cuddy, Sylvia Tyson, and Justin Rutledge.) But it’s with this, his first solo record, Old Dog, that Chris has really stepped out/up. The album features 5 original songs as well as some traditional numbers and covers of songs by The Band, John Hartford and Dave Dudley. The record also features friends on fiddle, pedal steel, mandola, cello and percussion. The song styles range from traditional folk to honky-tonk to contemporary bluegrass. I like that Old Dog has a nice, easy, casual feel. The record sounds organic and the songs are a natural for Chris’ laid back vocal delivery and masterful guitar/banjo playing.
It was hard to pick just one song since there’s a variety of styles on the record and since there are so many fine songs. But I forced myself to choose one and it’s the Chris Coole original “Hell To Pay” (although a close second was either the title track “Old Dog”, the duet called “The Bottle Got The Best Of Me” that reminded me of Prine/Dement, or the John Hartford cover “Wish We Had Our Time Together”).
Buy Old Dog here through Elderly Instruments.
Joy Kills Sorrow is a Boston based whose motto of “a modern American String band” encapsulates their sound pretty well. Darkness Sure Becomes This City is the followup to their debut record. It’ll be released in 2010 on Signature Sounds. From what I’ve heard of the band they don’t do that modern string band sound that is like a whirling dervish. Instead they use a lot of texture and space to create a sound that stradles bluegrass, folk and old timey.
Pretty sure this song will be on the upcoming record in some form or another. Looks like the next best time to see them perform live is Nov. 18 at The Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA. or Dec. 18 at The House of Yes in Brooklyn, NY. Enjoy and keep your eye out for this band in 2010.
Probably despite his best efforts eveything Loudon Wainwright III touches of late turns to gold. Examples include his children’s success (Rufus and Martha), his soundtrack work, his solo stuff, and even his acting (he was pretty great in a short cameo as a an OBGYN in Knocked Up). Loudon Wainwright latest undertaking is tackling the Charlie Poole (Trailer) story.
This song is a Loudon original that tells the story of Charlie Poole’s trip to NYC to record his first record for Columbia Records. High, Wide And Lonesome – The Charlie Poole Project is due out at the end of summer. There will be a documentary film as well.
Sarah Jarosz got more attention than any banjo wielding 18 year old could hope to expect from the indie rock music world a few weeks back with the release of her Decemberists cover “Shankill Butchers” (here). I hope now that her Sugar Hill debut is about to be released those same sites continue to write about this up and coming Austin based folk artist.
“Song Up In Her Head” is the title track of her debut on Sugar Hill which is due out June 16th. Sarah’s a talented musician and has a velvet voice that suits her blend of bluegrass/newgrass perfectly. I’m no expert but those in the know (Tim O’Brien and Abigail Washburn) have been singing her praises for a while now. Order the new record now here and be entered into a Sugar Hill contest.
Add The O’s from Dallas to your list of bands playing some kind of bluegrass/roots/pop blend. People in Dallas are excited about the band and their new record We Are The O’s. From several listens to the new tune “You’ve Got Your Heart” I can see why. This duo joins groups like the Avett Brothers, the Felice Brothers and Chatham County Line in blurring the line between bluegrass, folk, pop and something more modern like indie folk.
The band is on the road now and playing SXSW at MOther Egan’s on March 21. Get the new record here.
I struggled with what to call this post and the similar ones to follow this week. These are bands and records I missed out on in 2008. By and large they’re undiscovered and unheralded gems. They may have made a mark in their individual genres but they had nary a mention on the mp3 blog circuit (at least according to Elbo.ws)
Drew Emmitt’s Long Road should have appeared in these virtual pages sometime in early 2008. There’s no excuse for the delay given that this is a sterling, and crystal clear example of the new grass hybrid that I’m so fond of. Doubly so given that Drew is the lead singer/mandolinist of popular jamgrass band Leftover Salmon.
Buy it here.
Charlie Haden may well be the best living bass player. But like Bill Frisell or Yo Yo Man he hasn’t ever settled to be simply the best at his instrument. Instead he’s explored different genre’s, textures and styles of music. He has used his music as both a personal and at times political platform. His new project is Charlie Haden Family & Friends’ Ramblin’ Boy.
If this note perfect rendition of the Carter Family song “Single Girl, Married Girl” is any indication Ramblin’ Boy sounds like a real gem. If you’re a fan of guests than you’ll be happy to know this one features the Haden triplets, Jack Black, Elvis Costello, Bruce Hornsby and Roseanne Cash. Amazon has a seven minute “making of” video here. And you can buy the record from Amazon here.
Petra Haden – “Single Girl, Married Girl”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today. I’ve got a couple half finished posts I could have completed or I could have just taken the day off. Then I rechecked my email inbox and discovered that something in there would fit perfectly on Songs:Illinois.
The Washington, DC based roots band the Junior League Band have a new record out on September 30. Lissy Rosemont is the front woman and the driving force in the band (the press release states that it’s her banjo in the new song by Missy Elliott). Her take on life and the female perspective in these songs is a pleasant switch from the male dominated roots music scene.
The new record, Mitchell Williams Fo Govena, is out on Sept. 30 but you can pre-order it here. There’s a record release party at The Black Cat On Oct. 4.
One of the best records I’ve heard all the way through in the newgrass/bluegrass/alt-country style is from the Brooklyn based band Yarn. The bulk of the songs on the new record, while not completely traditional, are acoustic based mid-tempo numbers accented by fiddle and mandolin. As a result this record doesn’t rawk, though it does reel quite nicely.
The appropriately titled “Can’t Slow Down” is one of the most up tempo songs on here. But the slower songs are standouts as well – particularly the ones featuring guest vocalists Edie Brickell and Caitlin Cary.
Buy Empty Pockets here now.
I’ve been including a newgrassy song each and every week for as long as I can remember. Whether it’s The Duhks or Crooked Still or even The Felice Brothers I’ve tried to be a proponent of this style of music for the last few years. So now I feel like I can’t ignore this genre and the once weekly feature.
Red Molly’s new cd Love and Other Tragedies has been out since May but I’ve only just heard it. You can pick it up now through Amazon here. “Wichita” is a nice cover of the Gilian Welch tune of the same name.
The LA Times did a piece on former Hillary Clinton campaign chairman Howard Wolfson. Surprisingly it had little to do with politics and more to do with his love of indie rock. We’re all music snobs here, right? We all think we’ve got better taste than our friends, our enemies, and certainly any talking heads on TV. So it hurts me to say this but that dude’s got some pretty fine taste in music. His music blog is still young (Gotham Acme) but it came out of the gate nicely formed (the header’s got cool and original art, cool blogroll, and a working search function). He covers some tired ground in posts about TV On The Radio and Grizzly Bear but makes up for it with posts on BLK, Francois Breut, and Kelly McRae. Also any mention of The Feelies is always appreciated by me.
George Wirth has a song on the new Red Molly cd. If the music business was a fair and balanced competition, where the best songs come out on top, you’d have probably have heard of NJ’s George Wirth by now. But if this is your first time enjoy these two songs from his debut.
This weekend we headed out to Six Flags Great America. We had a great time going on every roller coaster my 7 year old could tolerate (and a few he couldn’t)! As a result the usually stellar writing you’ve become acquainted to at S:I may suffer this week. But as I’ve said before the music will always sparkle.
The Duhks have a new record, Fast Paced World, coming out August 19 on Sugarhill. The band has been hailed as one of those at the forefront of the new folk movement. From what I’ve heard and from this one song the band is exploring more unusual sounds and song styles. There’s a a certain world music/gypsy sound that the band is flirting with that I like very much. Expect a bunch of traditionalists to become even more dismayed than usual about the band’s new sound.
You can hear this newly refined sound on the song “This Fall” below.
Pre-order the new record here.
My definition of bluegrass for this occasional theme day is very broad. Hell, if it’s mostly all acoustic and even has an inkling of Kentucky, the Appalachian mountains or Bob Wills than it’s ripe for posting. The new record from Erin McDermott conjures up the mountains of Vermont instead (her home state), but otherwise this record is rife with acoustic picking and yearning bluegrass-gospel inspired vocals.
“Fowler Farm” is one of the standout tracks on the new record and I have both the album version and a stripped down live take from WGDR’s fundraiser.
I’ve been writing so much about this new string band renaissance I think I’m just about out of words to describe the music on Still Crooked the new record from Crooked Still out on Signature Sounds out on June 24.
On the song “Pharoah” the band mines a slightly gothic, darker sound to accompany the ghostly vocals (and subject matter) of lead singer Aoife O’Donovan. Pre-order this record now here through Amazon.
Stairwell Sisters are an all woman acoustic bluegrassy juggernaut from San Francisco. This, their third recording, has been produced by the great Lloyd Maines. The band’s name comes from the fact the two founders perfected their harmonies by practicing in a stairwell (great reverb in there dont’ cha know!?).
“Shuffle And Shine” chronicles the hard times of a shoe shiner the band recently encountered. With lines like “Landlord’s back at my front door…what I wouldn’t do for a steady paycheck…” and its depression era string band sound in this age of near or full-on recession, when a shortage of “good” jobs looms, and the housing crisis just keeps getting worse and worse it’s as topical as anything Woody et al composed.
The new record, Get Off Your Money, is available here now.
They don’t call NJ “The Garden State” for nothing. Parts of the state are as beautiful, green and lush as the famed blue grass of Kentucky. So then it should come as no surprise that one of the rising stars of newgrass (for want of a better term) is Railroad Earth from Stillwater, NJ.
Amen Corner is the new record out June 10 on Sci Fidelity (their previous two records were on the revered roots label Sugar Hill). The single is the jam band friendly tune “Hard Livin’” and while the song is certainly catchy enough and is probably indicitive of their energetic live show, it’s the more subdued song “Been Down This Road” that caught my ear. Pre-order the new record here.
P.S. Video commenting is now enabled. It’s easy to do but no one’s given it a try yet. I’d love to see a couple comments just to see if it works and if it’s worth keeping.
I’m not completely sold on all the young newgrassy bands (how `bout you?). Crooked Still, The Duhks and others just leave me a little cold. The music is pristine and shiny, but at times lacks the passion of less acclaimed and even less purely talented groups.
One of the most acclaimed young groups that stradle this line between polished bluegrass and down to earth country is Nashville’s Infamous Stringdusters. They’ll be releasing their new record on Sugar Hill In June. The guys in the `Dusters can certainly play, and that, along with their age and scruffy appearance, are a few of the reasons the band is treated more like a jam band than a bluegrass band on the road.
So here’s “You Can’t Handle The Truth” from the sophomore long player from the Infamous Stringdusters. Compare and contrast with the Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee song below.
What perfect timing. Here’s an example of an English band playing traditional American music just for kicks around the kitchen table. Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee is the name of Darren Hayman’s bluegrass inspired americana group. Darren Hayman is the former front man for the English cult pop group Hefner. So this will receive a wider release than your “typical” London bluegrass band; it’ll be out on Fortuna POP! via Cargo and iTunes on May 6 (today!).
They literally recorded this around the kitchen table in Darren’s flat. It’s probably a purist’s nightmare and is no doubt riddled with miscues and off key singing. But there’s something to this. The lyrics are original and address topics that are more relevant cold Appalachian winters and/or moonshine stills. So again compare this with the song above and see what you think.
Buy it now here. Here’s the song “Sly and the Family Stone”
and a cute video of Darren’s dog running around England to the tune of “Beulah Crossing The Marshes”
So which do you prefer or did you even read this far?
Bonus demo of “Don’t Flake Out On Me” from the upcoming reissue of Hefner’s 2nd record The Fidelity Wars.
The ratio of discs received to discs actually written about here at Songs:Illinois is about 100 to 1. That is, if we receive 100 discs we actually getting around to writing about only one. The latest that made the grade is the new record of Louvin Brothers covers by the Lawrence based duo known as Drakkar Sauna.
These guys are known for their avant-traditional country sounds. But on this disc they play these Louvin Brother’s classics straight up. Why do a faithful cover of these songs? I’m going to guess it’s because of the timelessness of the material. A song like “The Family Who Prays” sounds like it’s ripped from the talk show circuit seeing that it describes the decline of the American family and also addresses the pain of war; a topic that is increasingly a mainstay for American families. The Pitch’s blog, Wayward Blog, is all over this as well here with another song from the new record, tour dates and some insight into the band.
The new record is called Wars and Tornadoes and is available through Marriage Records here.
I threatened a regular “Bluegrass Tuesday” feature last week and nobody complained, in fact two of you said bring it on. You may be sorry for being so encouraging. This may not continue past this week because in the whole recorded history of traditional American folk music I can’t imagine there being many cases of remixes, let alone a remix with Arnold Schwarzenegger voice added to the mix. And I know you guys can be pretty stiff and unforgiving.
“Hoss Race” is a song from Tim O’Brien’s new record Chameleon. Tim O’Brien is ex Hot Rize and a wonderful songwriter, picker and singer (wrote about him here). Below one of the new songs off of Chameleon has been given the remix treatment by former Bad Livers leader and Songs:Illinois favorite Danny Barnes (here, here). The mix is a little rough and choppy at times (Danny’s no Justice), but the gist of the remix reminds me of Moby’s early hits where he sampled traditional gospel and blues and added a beat creating a very modern sound rooted in tradition.
Hoss Race Remix (remix by Danny Barnes